FAQs – Tiny Homes and Caravans

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FAQs – Tiny Homes and Caravans

Buildings constructed as relocatable accommodation are often referred to as ‘tiny houses’ or something similar.

They are becoming increasingly popular, and are often featured in media and on television as eco-friendly and budget-friendly alternatives to traditional housing. They are usually purpose built or modified buildings to provide extra family accommodation, residential accommodation (including rental accommodation) or holiday accommodation, whether temporary or permanent or never used for overnight accommodation.

Relocatable accommodation may be purchased from a diverse range of vendors or constructed by you. They include:

  • Converted shipping containers;
  • Modular structures (for example Portacom type buildings);
  • Purpose built constructions;
  • Converted out-buildings (for example garages, sheds); and
  • Campervans, caravans etc.

It is important to note that, if relocatable accommodation is constructed or modified outside of the Marlborough region, it will be subject to a slightly different approach by the Building Group. In very broad and general terms, it is likely to require a building consent and further may require a resource consent if it is not the only dwelling on a site where residential activity is permitted. It may be there are other resource consents or permits required for example discharge consents for household grey and black water.

This can be a complicated matter and so Council has prepared an information sheet to assist you. You can access the information sheet using the link below.

Go to the information sheet

Here you will find information to help you distinguish your accommodation structure in terms of whether it is a house or a vehicle, whether your house will require building consent of any associated building work, etc.

  • You can park your caravan on your property to store it between holidays. This is considered an ancillary activity to residential activity however there may be restrictions about where on the property it can be placed. It is treated in the same way as parking your car or storing your boat. If you wish to construct a garage or carport to store it you may require resource consent and/or building consent for the carport or garage.

    You can also use your caravan as a sleep out however this becomes more difficult as it may be considered a second dwelling. If you wish to use it as a permanent living space for someone as their dwelling then it is more than likely going to need resource consent.

    Resource consent is required to have more than one dwelling on a property and there are restrictions such as the amount of land that must be available to have a second dwelling (including a granny flat).

    The Building Act 2004 (BA04) applies to all buildings whether temporary, permanent or relocatable. The term ‘building’ is defined in the BA04 and does not include vehicles that are movable and are not occupied on a permanent or long-term basis.

    This has, in the past, been the cause of some confusion as some relocatable accommodation shares the features of vehicles or may have had a feature added to give the impression it is a movable vehicle. Equally there is confusion where a vehicle becomes a ‘building’ under the BA04. This occurs when the vehicle has undergone some alteration that causes it to no longer be a vehicle or motor vehicle (including a vehicle or motor vehicle as defined in section 2(1) of the Land Transport Act 1998) and it is:

    • Immovable; and
    • Occupied by people on a permanent or long-term basis.

    An alteration could be to the vehicle itself or work that causes it to become fixed to the site by plumbing, foundations or decking or some other alteration. Generally speaking, the test now applied by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is whether the relocatable accommodation is designed for road use and can be towed successfully on a road.

    Simply because a structure is capable of being moved does not mean that it falls to be considered a vehicle under the Building Act. Whether a building is a vehicle will involve a case by case assessment and, as a purchaser or someone looking to construct a relocatable accommodation, it is important to be careful that all the features are in place if you wish to claim that it is a vehicle.

    If you believe your relocatable accommodation is a vehicle for the purposes of the Building Act and Council does not, you may apply for a Determination from MBIE. MBIE will decide if the relocatable accommodation is a vehicle or a building, and Council may still issue you a Notice to Fix but cannot take any further action until the determination made.

    It is important to be aware that even if your relocatable accommodation is a vehicle it may still be considered a residential unit or dwelling under the Resource Management Act 1991.